“The one thing words and pictures have in common is that their craft is all in the editing. Out of the streaming confusion of information and images, we have to sift and select the things that make a cogent, coherent, engaging plot…..what is happening just outside the picture are the words. And when we get it right, the image and the writing, when they come together, they make something that is greater than their binary parts. They’re not illustrations or captions, but a tandem, complimentary work, without repetition or duplication.” A.A. Gill
The Bigger Picture closed to public viewing on March 10th, but will open again for a limited run from April 26th to April 29th 2012 at Mews42, 42 Princes Gate Mews, London
If you love travel and the written word you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with A.A. Gill. But what you might not know is that for the past eight years the writer has worked in close partnership with a single photographer, Tom Craig; they have travelled together across four continents to places as varied as Greenland and Chad, Albania and Haiti with Craig providing the photographic yin to Gill’s textual yang.
A selection of Tom Craig and A.A. Gill’s work has recently been collated into an exhibition, The Bigger Picture, which explores the relationship between the two men, and between the arts of travel photography and travel writing. It depicts the way in which a writer when paired successfully with a photographer can produce a story from two perspectives that becomes more than the sum of its parts, and portrays a 360 degree view of the destination they encounter.
A.A. Gill needs little introduction but while Tom Craig’s photography may not have gained him the household name status afforded to Gill’s caustic wit, he is equally sought-after in his own field. He has travelled to the Gaza strip with Daniel Day-Lewis, Uzbekistan with Danny Boyle and Colombia with Martin Amis for his book Writing on the Edge which sees contemporary writers, including A.A. Gill, document harrowing stories of conflict worldwide.
In Tom Craig Gill found a photographer whose own sensibility complements his. They are, in some ways, opposites yet have a shared approach to their work. Neither is interested in paying the tourist office a visit, in fact both refuse to read about a place in advance to help avoid cliché and arrive knowing nothing -or as little as possible- learning only from what they observe, rather than be hampered by the cumbersome baggage of preconception.
Tom tends to bring a thoughtfulness and more introverted side to the pairing – always asking if he can take a picture, in the knowledge that with a camera in your hand you unbalance the room, you change the atmosphere and hold the power. He also brings lightness to the partnership, seeing the positive, the upside of the story. His image of a Chad refugee camp depicts smiles, life and colour, relegating the women’s tented homes and the reason for the camp’s existence to the background. Read A.A. Gill’s accompanying text and the subject matter of war and genocide move sharply back into focus.
Sometimes as in Portrait of War, the text will reveal context to the picture, but equally the image may illuminate the text. The t’s may be crossed and i’s dotted on a picture via the words, or as in Seal Blood, the shutter’s preconceptions may be shattered by the pen. In Albania Bathers we’re reminded of the languid bathers of Seurat, but the accompanying story is far more brutal than the image leads us to believe.
Lurking brutality which catches you unawares is a recurring theme of the exhibition, but despite this the images are a kind of porn for the travel addict – literally in the case of Midnight Sun - and like porn they are sexy on the surface but their truth lies in failure or cruelty.
The stories take us on a worldwide journey from the bloodiest of England’s historical battlefields via Iceland, Madagascar and Tasmania to Norway, India and Turkey, before bringing us full circle to a corner of the gallery that depicts the forever England of Cricket at St Paul’s – and for once the national pride in the words mirror the beautiful quintessential Englishness of the image.
The Bigger Picture closed to public viewing on March 10th 2012, but will open again for a limited run from April 26th to April 29th at Mews42, 42 Princes Gate Mews, London
The full collection can be viewed online here.
Signed limited edition prints come in either large (6 available) or medium size (12 available) starting from £1,440. Each print comes with accompanying signed text by A.A Gill. To purchase prints contact the gallery firstname.lastname@example.org.
Win! Sign up to the Savoir There Travel Inspiration newsletter between and have the chance to win one of 10 limited edition sets of postcards of 12 images from the collection. Winners will be contacted by email. UK postal addresses only.
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